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New South Wales and duck shooting: 2023 update

Life in the air

“The NSW Native Game Bird Management Program allows licensed, responsible volunteer hunters to help landholders manage the impacts of native game birds over their agricultural lands”. New South Wales Government

Peter and Andrea Hylands

November 19, 2023

Some years ago, after recreational duck shooting was banned, we exposed the New South Wales Government’s recruitment campaign in Victoria to recruit duck shooters to come to New South Wales to shoot ducks. Duck shooting for recreational purposes was banned in New South Wales in 1995.

“Recreational duck hunting was banned in Western Australia in 1990, NSW in 1995, and Queensland in 2005”. Peter Hylands

In 2014 the Guardian made the same point as we did:

“Duck season may have been abolished in NSW, but almost 200,000 native ducks were killed by hunters in the state in the past five years. Figures obtained from the Environment Department showed 199,920 ducks were shot on more than 1,500 private properties under the guise of pest eradication to protect rice crops”.
“The ducks are being killed by amateur hunters, many of them driving up from Melbourne for weekend hunting trips, who are focused on sport rather than protecting rice crops”.

When the Creative cowboy films team looked at this disgraceful activity in 2017 this was the situation:

“In New South Wales, which does not have a recreational shooting season for waterbirds, an estimated 49,750 ducks were shot during the 2016-17 rice growing period”.

There are two things to consider, some of the duck species being killed under the guise of mitigation and crop protection would do not eat rice and ducks will be attracted to areas of remnant wet in severe droughts and that includes rice fields.

So what has happened in the last few years?

The New South Wales Government is targeting 10 duck species:

  1. Mountain Duck;
  2. Wood Duck;
  3. Pacific Black Duck;
  4. Blue-winged Shoveler;
  5. Chestnut Teal;
  6. Plumed Whistling Duck;
  7. Grey Teal;
  8. Hardhead;
  9. Pink-eared Duck; and
  10. Wandering Whistling Duck

Number of ducks shot in New South Wales by year.

  • 2018-19 – 1,554
  • 2019-20 – 712
  • 2020-21 – 6,405
  • 2021-22 – 8,530

Grey Teal, Wood Duck and Pacific Black Duck species were the most impacted. In 2021-22 there were 2,796 endorsed shooters, an increase from the COVID lockdown years. So the number of protected birds being killed is increasing again despite dwindling populations of waterbirds.

Use of lead shot

Amid growing worldwide recognition of the threat posed by toxic lead for wildlife and humans, the NSW Government continues to permit the use of lead shot in rice fields in NSW.

Lead toxicity from ammunition is harmful to waterbirds and humans around the world.

“There is considerable evidence published in professional scientific journals demonstrating that lead shot negatively impacts the health of wildlife, humans, and the environment. The impacts of lead shot on wildlife include decreased survival, poor body condition, behavioural changes, and impaired reproduction”. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Wildlife Populations and Research Unit.
“Lead is fine and all you need is a NSW R licence (safety test which can be a pain to get and a club membership are prerequisites) and the (rice) farmers permission, an SMS will do I’m pretty sure”. Shooter giving advice on shooting in NSW rice fields
“Steel vs. lead shot: Some evidence suggests that lead shot may persist in the environment and may be ingested by some waterfowl species. Based on this evidence the use of lead shot during recreational game bird seasons has been phased out in some States. In NSW the use of lead shot has not been prohibited because all game bird hunting is for mitigation purposes. However hunters participating in the NSW Native Game Bird Management Program are encouraged to use steel shot”. NSW Department of Primary Industry

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